Monday, 27 June 2016

Will Sidney's War - June 1918 - "In the Dock"

On 1 July 2016, it will be 100 years since the commencement of the Battle of the Somme.  From Will's war diaries it seems that whilst this battle was taking place, he was in England, between postings.

We now pick Will's story up in May 1918, where Will was with the 9th York & Lancs on the Italian front line and starting to feel unwell. If you are new to Will's story and want to catch up with previous posts then you can find them here.

The first entry which alludes to Will feeling ill was on 21 May 1918 where he writes that he went to the doctors for dressings on his face and arms.  There is no mention as to what happened to cause the need for these dressings.

On 25 May, Will writes ... "Landed back @ 4.10. Very bad & tired. Temp 100.2. I wish Ethel was here to help me."

He is clearly not well at all and we pick back up with Will's diary on 26 May 1918 ...
"26 Sunday - West Yorks relieved us & we marched from supports to 41/2 kilos past Granezza. Fell on the roadside. Temperature 102. A touch of fever, sent into hospital"
"27 Monday - DRS. Temp 102. Thinking of Darling Ethel. No chance to write. Very bad. Put onto milk diet (baby food). Feeling a bit better."
"28 Tuesday - Feeling a little better but my throat & back very painful. Thinking of Ethel. Wishing she was here to nurse me."
"29 Wednesday - Still in Dock. Feeling pretty bad. Thinking of Darling Ethel. My throat is sore. Taking me all my time to walk."
 "30 Thursday - Still in Dock. Still in bed. Thinking of Darling Ethel. Wish she was here or I there & then everything would be all right. Bless her."
"31 Friday - Still in Dock. My throat & arm very bad. Still in bandages & under the doctor. No better."
"1 JUNE, Saturday - Still in Dock & under doctor. Writ to Ethel. Wishing she was here or I was there with her. Rumours of leave starting." 
When Will refers to being 'in the Dock', this means he was in hospital. This was the first week of what ended up being a long stay for Will, though not always in the same hospital.

It is also interesting to read Will's mention of leave. He is obviously hoping to get a bit of time off for a visit home.

The following week finds Will still 'in the Dock' ...
"2 Sunday - Still in Dock under Doc. My hand still in bandages. Face not quite better. I wish it was so as I could see about my leave."
"3 Monday - Still in Dock. Bandages on my face & neck. No letters from anybody. Thinking of Darling Ethel. Writ to Ma."
"4 Tuesday - Still in Dock. Doctor wanted to lance my neck but I wouldn't let him."
"5 Wednesday - Still same place. My neck not so painful. Swelling going down nicely"
"6 Thursday - Same place. Seen Doctor. Moved me to our Transport lines with 2 days rations. Landed @ 6 o'clock at night."
"7 Friday - Went to see an American Doc. Got ED & rot .... Thinking of Ethel. God Bless her. I hope to see her soon."
"8 Saturday - Still under the Doctor for treatment. Abscess on the neck. Letter from Rosie, Leeds, with cigs. Doctor (Batt) says my neck is caused by the wound."
Some of the writing for this part of Will's diary is very hard to decipher, especially on the 8th. If it is that Will's neck problem is caused by 'the wound', there is no indication anywhere of how this wound has occurred.

"9 Sunday - Sent into Hosp again for operation on the neck. Writ to Ethel telling her. (Bless her)."
"10 Monday - Still in Dock with stiff neck. Sweating on ... Writ to Ma & Rosie, Leeds. Very, very hot day. Thinking of Darling Ethel. God bless & protect her from harm."
"11 Tuesday - Still in Dock under Doctor. Neck going down nicely. Thinking of Ethel. Hoping to see her before long. Writ to Charlie @ France."
"12 Wednesday - Still in Dock under Doc. Neck still swelled. Doctor says he will put the knife in. Thinking of Darling Ethel. Bless her."
"13 Thursday - Still in Dock. Neck going down. Hoping to be discharged any time. Writ to Jim & Ada. Doc says my neck is much better. No knife."
"14 Friday - As per usual, waiting for the Doctor's verdict. Told me it is getting alright. Had two letters from Darling Ethel & answered them."
"15 Saturday - Doctor removed me to the CCS. Landed @ 8pm. Waited for dressing & back @ 10pm. No letters come through from 17 May. Very anxious about Ethel."
The entry on 11 June is the first time we have heard mention of Will's brother Charlie since 27 July, the previous year, when he was thrown by a mule on sports day and broke his collar bone. You can read more about this here.

The following week finds Will waiting at the CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) for transport back to the base ...
"16 Sunday - Still @ CCS. Nothing doing. Can't write on account of no paper. Worse luck. Thinking of Darling Ethel. God bless her."
"17 Monday - Still in CCS. Expecting to be shifted to the base. Not moved yet. Train full up."
"18 Tuesday - Still waiting to go down. No train to take us. Thinking of Darling Ethel."
"19 Wednesday - Wish I could write to her & let her know where I am. Still here."
"20 Thursday - Still @ CCS. Expecting to be moved. Rained heavens high all day, nearly got washed away. No news of anybody."
"21 Friday & 22 Saturday - Got orders to move to the base. On the train all day & all through the night. Arrived @ Genoa @ 1.30. Went to the 51st Stationary Hospital 'A'. Couldn't write on account of having no paper."
We found this photograph in Will's things. It would appear that it was taken whilst he was in hospital. We have no idea whether it was taken in the 51st Stationary Hospital or some other, but thought it was definnitely worth sharing at this point.

From Will's note on the back, you can see that he has marked himself on the photograph with an 'X' above his head. Can you find him? Will spends the rest of June in the hospital waiting for a Medical Board, but somehow, with his stiff and painful neck, manages to fit a skating session in ...

"23 Sunday - No paper or envelope or I would write to Darling Ethel. Waiting for the Doc's verdict. Doctor didn't come."
"24 - 26 Monday - Wednesday - Doctor put me on a Board. Had a walk into Genoa. Went into the Con Camp short arms inspection. Thinking of Darling Ethel. I wish I could write. Inspection by the MC. Marked 'B'. 2 hours a day waiting for a medical board."
"27 Thursday - Writ to Darling Ethel. My neck being managed. Writ to Ma & cousin Rosie. @ the Con Depot. My papers came through for a Board."
"28 Friday - Thinking of Darling Ethel. My neck is very stiff. Waiting for a letter from Ethel."
"29 Saturday - My neck feeling very stiff & sore. Waiting for a Medical Board. I am anxiously waiting for a letter from Ethel. Got invited to an Italian skating rink. Had a good skate with Chuck Blake (KOLYIs)." 
The 'B' that Will was marked as by the MC is an army medical category, used in WW1, meaning that Will was ...
"Free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service on lines of communication in France, or in garrisons in the tropics."
You will be able to find out what this meant for Will in my next post.

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